The Covid portal and the Leni movement
Two years ago, novelist Arundhati Roy published an essay that powerfully described what was happening to our world.
The pandemic crisis had just begun. Major cities, from San Francisco to New Delhi to Manila, were locked down. There were suddenly new rules about wearing masks and maintaining distance. Thousands and eventually tens of thousands and millions were getting sick — and dying.
The world was being upended by a seemingly unstoppable virus. Roy’s essay noted the role that pandemics historically have played in human history.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.”
The essay resonated with many people, including friends of mine. It was even turned into a YouTube video which has been viewed more than 195,000 times and which prompted a viewer to write, “This video hit me really hard.”
It’s been two years since we entered the Covid portal. The pandemic is still with us. But it clearly is a new and different world.
In many ways, things have remained the same. And in some cases, they have even gotten worse.
There is a war raging in Europe. Trump is no longer in power, but he remains powerful. Duterte is on his way out. But another Marcos is in a position to take power once again.
I recently told a friend how it sometimes feels like we’re back in the 1980s. The Cold War is raging and actually turned hot with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And the Marcoses are back.
But many things have changed and are changing for the better.
One of them is the Leni Robredo campaign, which has morphed quickly into a massive, powerful movement that has turned the spotlight on leadership based on powerful values: quiet strength and humility; responsiveness and engagement.
Win or lose, Robredo has made a meaningful and lasting change in the political conversation.
Covid, Roy wrote, is “a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
That’s what the millions who have joined the Pink Rallies are been doing — marching for another world, ready to fight for it.